The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (虎の尾を踏む男達) (1945)

dir. Akira Kurosawa. 12th century feudal Japan, Lord Yoshitsune is on the run after a falling out with his brother, the Shogun. Yoshitsune is escorted by six loyal samurai, disguised as monks, as they trek through the mountains towards freedom. The screenplay by Kurosawa is based on a popular Kabuki play. The theatrical origins are evident in the many beautiful songs, and the occasional horizontal wipe scene transition, mimicking the rising of a theatre curtain. Kurosawa’s main addition to the story is the porter character, who provides much comic relief with his delightfully expressive reactions, and Chaplinesque physical comedy. Kurosawa would later compare the role of the porter, to Sancho Panza in ‘Don Quixote’. The film production overlapped the end of World War II, and the Japanese surrender to the Allied Powers. One result of this was having to deal with various American soldiers and other visitors, interrupting the set. One such visitor was the director John Ford, who shared a mutual appreciation with Kurosawa. The Japanese director was unaware of this missed encounter until they met again in England many years later. The other result of the occupation was that the Allied Powers banned the film for the portrayal of feudal Japan, and local audiences would not see the film for another seven years.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.